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Privacy or Paranoia?

Aug 3, 2003

I was diagnosed March 2003 after ned test March 2002. For years I tested neg. I worked in the HIV community as a volunteer. Have known quite a few people who have hiv/aids or died from diseases related to it. For years I went to therapy, coping with sexual identity. Did not come out until I was in mid-30s. I used to say I was glad I wasn't out in the 70s because I would probably be dead. Well, though I always used a condom when I tricked (except for oral) I became exposed w/i the past year or so. I have not done drugs or drank since 1985--but I think my sexual compulsions, a new "drug" caught up with me. My life was just beginning to take off at 46- I just moved to san diego last year, changed jobs and started to feel good about myself. I was letting go of clinging to my parents and thought that I should rrturn to New England to be with them. My partner of 11 years had noticed how happy I was in the months leading up to my hiv diagnosis. He is negative. He has been very supportive. More bad news--I have high VL already (300K) and 34=50 tcells. I do not want to go on meds yet. I am afraid they won't work. I am seeing an hiv specialist and a gay therapist at the "Center". One of my immediate problems is I do not want people to know my status. I am ashamed that I got it. In this day and age, unlike the old days, thee is no excuse. People wil think I barebacked. Shows poor judgment. Plus I am in a relationship--though it is open. I don;'t want people judgiung me. I also opened a biz of sorts in this small gay community. I dont want the word out. With my family, they will carry on and make it their issue. My parents will blame themslves and me for not folowing church rules (Catholic). I am afraid I will set a bad example as a gay man to all my neices, nephews and siblings, many who now look up to me. There are several I would tell-but I know the w ord will get out to all in a matter of time. I have only told my partner and my first therapist who is now a friend (living 3000 miles away). I am afraid to go to a group --thinking I will see someone who might recognize me. I do not want to go to oharmacy to pick up drugs-will get it my mail order when it comes time. I am afraid to go to dr, or hospital--I feel staff will judge me. I have heard of horrible things said behind people's back. I have always been very concerned with "keeping up appearances" and so this is killing me. I know mamy people are very open about it--but I can't see myself ever being like that., My old therapist says ok to be private--but I need to talk to someone who knows what it''s like. I dont want to tell old pos friends back east-- because they will tell others I dont want to know. Amy I crazy or just private?



Response from Mr. Shernoff

Frankly your concerns while all based on some rational concerns, in reality do seem to be an extreme reaction to me. I think that if on some level you did not already know this you would not even be posing the question.

I am definitely NOT tellling you how open about your diagnosis to be. That is a very personal decision and there is not one correct party line. Similarly I can not assure you that some people will not judge you for having recently seroconverted. But the amount of shame you are expressing seems to be one of the big clues to the intensity of your reaction.

I am pleased that you are in therapy with someone who sounds like an expert in these issues. By contintuing to work with him or her on all of your feelings hopefully you can come to a place of more self-acceptance that will allow you to find your emotional balance regarding having become HIV-positive.

Michael Shernoff, MSW

What can I expect?
Burn Out

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